Charity of the Month
- Wild Dogs and Cheetahs are South Africa’s most threatened carnivores with less than 450 and 700 remaining respectively.
- Wild Dogs and Cheetahs are threatened by habitat fragmentation, direct persecution, snaring and vehicle strikes.
- The Kruger National Park is a conservation stronghold for Wild Dogs and Cheetahs in Africa but both species occur outside protected areas too where they require concerted conservation action.
- The EWT is one of the leading organisations addressing Wild Dog and Cheetah conservation throughout their range in South Africa and across the diversity of the threats facing these species.
CONSERVING AFRICAN WILD DOGS AND CHEETAHS IN SOUTH AFRICA
African Wild Dogs are Endangered and Cheetahs are Vulnerable making them South Africa’s most threatened carnivores. It is estimated that there are less than 450 Wild Dogs and 700 Cheetahs in South Africa. The only conservation area large enough to hold viable populations of both species is the Kruger National Park with Kgalagadi National Park being of secondary importance to Cheetahs.
There are also free-roaming populations of Cheetahs and Wild Dogs outside of formal protected areas. The largest part of South Africa’s Cheetah population occurs along the northern borders of the country and an important population of Wild Dogs occurs in the Waterberg region of Limpopo. In these areas land is privately owned and generally under livestock or game ranching. This means that conflict and resultant retaliatory killings are common when Cheetahs and Wild Dogs prey on animals with an economic value to landowners. Conserving carnivores outside protected areas is challenging because of the scale of the areas, the multiple stakeholders involved and the difficulties associated with policing and enforcement. In these areas direct killing is the key threat, with vehicle collisions also threatening Wild Dogs and Cheetahs being threatened through unregulated trade into the captive industry because they have a high economic value and make good exotic pets.
The increasing human population is putting more pressure on protected areas and natural resources, with additional challenges to carnivore conservation. Snares set for bushmeat often end up killing Wild Dogs and Cheetahs and this has been identified as one of the largest threats throughout both species range. Human encroachment is making habitat become increasingly fragmented resulting in the formation of fenced protected areas. Cheetahs and Wild Dogs that occur inside these areas need to be managed artificially to prevent inbreeding and overpopulation. These reserves provide an important population of Cheetahs and Wild Dogs that are protected outside the Kruger National Park. However, management of these populations is intensive, expensive, involves long-term commitments and is challenging as small populations they are more vulnerable threats.
The EWT is addressing the conservation challenges facing Wild Dogs and Cheetahs at various levels from local on-the-ground conservation initiatives to working with governments and international non-government organisations to develop range-wide conservation action.
The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is considered to be the last protected stronghold for Wild Dogs and Cheetahs in South Africa. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme (EWT-CCP) has run tourist photographic surveys to determine the minimum number of Wild Dogs and Cheetahs in the park over the last two decades. Results indicate that Wild Dog numbers have declined from 434 in 1993/4 to 132 in 2008/9, and Cheetah numbers are low with 172 estimated between 1990/1 and 2008/9.
A five year research project in Kruger revealed that the key threats with Wild Dogs in the greater area is snaring and the diseases, rabies and distemper. With the small size of the Kruger Wild Dog population and more than two million people living on the boundary of the park, these threats have the potential to seriously impact on the carnivores.
Wild Dog numbers in the Kruger National Park have shown a constant decline over the past 20 years
What the EWT is doing:
- Working with South African National Parks and the State Vet to implement a vaccination programme that will vaccinate all Wild Dogs in Kruger and the surrounds against rabies and distemper. Wild Dogs have no natural immunity to these two diseases that are mostly transferred by domestic dogs.
- Working with key reserves and neighbouring communities to address the issues around snaring. This involved improved snare removal and creating employment to generate alternative sources of income for community members.
The Managed Metapopulation of Wild Dogs and Cheetahs
Background – Wild Dogs
Over the past 19 years Wild Dogs have been reintroduced into small fenced reserves across South Africa to ensure that a viable metapopulation of Wild Dogs exists outside of the Kruger National Park. This has been one of the most successful reintroduction programmes of its kind and has resulted in over 200 dogs on 10 reserves totaling nearly 500 000ha. While this initiative is driven strongly by the EWT, the key success is the highly collaborative process used to coordinate the initiative. The Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa (WAG-SA) is chaired and coordinated by the EWT and involves stakeholders from all areas of Wild Dog conservation. The range expansion project for Wild Dogs in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has been particularly successful with the provincial population now totaling approximately 140 Wild Dogs. These reintroductions are carried out through continuous, proactive liaison with conservation, community and commercial farming stakeholders by the KZN Wild Dog Advisory Group (KZN-WAG), also coordinated by the EWT
Background – Cheetahs
Cheetahs have been reintroduced into 54 reserves for tourism and ecological reasons and currently almost 300 Cheetahs occur in fenced reserves in South Africa. These cheetahs were sourced from the free-roaming populations in South Africa and Namibia and the reintroductions and their management are currently being undertaken haphazardly with no larger conservation plan in mind. This has in some cases resulted in in-breeding and local over-population. Managers have also become frustrated by being unable find suitable relocation venues for excess Cheetahs which often end up in captivity as a result. This limits the conservation potential of these Cheetahs and reserves. The EWT was identified to facilitate a coordinated management approach to maximise the conservation value and in the long-term contribute to the range expansion of Cheetahs in South Africa. To this end, several tools have been developed to aid reserve managers in managing their Cheetahs themselves including: the development of management clusters of reserves and relevant government officials which meet regularly to collaborate and develop joint decisions; the construction of a website will allow for easy, reliable information dissemination on Cheetah reintroductions; the development of a complete database of all metapopulation reserves; and the genetic sampling of Cheetahs to ensure that Cheetahs are moved between reserves to maximise genetic diversity.
Our key successes in carnivore conservation
- South Africa is probably the only country in the world where our numbers of large carnivores are increasing – particularly African Wild Dogs, Cheetahs and Lions. This is largely due to the success of the reintroductions into fenced reserves.
- Today there are 234 Wild Dogs and 320 more Cheetahs than there would have been in South Africa thanks to the reintroduction projects run by EWT.
- We have put measures in place with government to ensure that all loopholes for stealing of cheetahs from the wild for captive facilities will be closed. Essentially removing one the key threats to cheetahs in South Africa
- We have created nearly 1 million hectares of safe land for carnivores and made livestock farming more productive through our livestock guarding project.
Free Roaming Wild Dogs and Cheetahs
Limpopo province is home to several packs of free roaming Wild Dogs – the current estimate is three packs – and an unknown number of Cheetahs. These carnivores occur naturally and are able to move and disperse freely with no management interventions. However, this means that these Wild Dogs and Cheetahs often come into conflict with humans when they prey on cattle and game that have an economic value to the landowner. Additionally Cheetahs are particularly vulnerable to be sold into captivity as they have a high commercial value and can be tamed to make exotic pets.
What the EWT is doing:
- Collecting photographs and compiling identikits of each Wild Dog through a citizen science photographic contest to get a minimum Wild Dog population estimate.
- Recording and mapping all sightings of Wild Dogs to get a preliminary idea of their movement patterns.
- Conducting research into actual vs perceived damage caused by carnivores and measuring effectiveness of non-lethal damage control. This will help with effective pro-active conflict mitigation.
- Holding workshops and meetings with landowners and conservation officials to disseminate information on the Waterberg Wild Dogs to landowners and managers. This will ensure that correct information on carnivores is available as conflict is often driven by a lack of knowledge.
- Providing information, support and in many cases livestock guarding dogs to landowners to protect cattle, sheep and goats from predators. This has been very successful and there are many examples of landowners who have had no losses to carnivores since placing dogs with their livestock. Securing livestock from predation prevents retaliatory killings and thus secures safe habitat.
- Working with government and international organisations like CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to put measures in place to prevent wild-caught Cheetahs ending up in captivity. This has resulted in the illegal trade in Cheetahs being included on the agenda for the CITES Conference of the Parties meeting in 2013.
The Carnivore Conservation Programme
The Carnivore Conservation Programme (CCP) is one of the original programmes of the Endangered Wildlife Trust which was founded in 1974. The CCP focuses on the conservation of carnivores and their habitats. Large carnivores play a key role in regulating terrestrial ecosystems and their removal can cause effects that cascade through the lower trophic levels. Despite this, the geographic range and density of most large carnivore species are declining globally due to anthropogenic factors. Large carnivores are particularly difficult to conserve because they often come into conflict with humans, have large ranges, normally occur at low densities and are not confined to protected areas. The CCP has made huge strides in Cheetah and Wild Dog conservation in South Africa and is recognized as a leader in the field of carnivore conservation.
Bush Craft in Africa
Bush-craft… “The skill of living in the wilderness”
Bush-craft enables our students to have a unique perspective on ‘The South African Bush’.
A skilled Bush crafter must understand Nature and all its complexities.
Trying to teach our students to minimalize their footprint and always put something back.
In bringing Students out to the bush, we are helping them understand and respect nature a little more and consider the environment
Showing the children precisely why their natural environment is so precious is paramount – a crucial step or foundation stone!
We can also demonstrate what nature has to offer, over and above your local supermarket store.
Bush Whisper offers the following in our weekend packages for either schools, Teambuilding or groups:
- Plants and Tree’s
- Fire craft
- Shelter craft
- Knife craft
- First Aid and Safety Routines
- Camp craft and Wilderness Cooking
- Tracking and Natural Awareness
Natural Navigation Bush-craft is really about enjoying nature – understanding what it has to offer and leaving our students more ’rounded’ and confident
A short video Clip of our Bush Craft weekend: